Houston ISD's Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra stood on a platform at the George R Brown Convention Center to address nearly 2,000 guests. Saavedra spoke of several district accomplishments, including teacher performance pay, pre-kindergarten classes for every four-year-old, the construction of 12 new schools and renovation of 25 others.
"We will look at all kinds of options for better schools for kids, such as schools that combine pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in one nurturing environment, ninth grade centers to give extra help to incoming high school freshmen and consolidation of smaller schools."
Most of Saavedra's speech focused on the successes of the past year, but he also referenced the need to change strategies to reduce the dropout rate and increase college enrollment.
"You may not always think of it, but a child's attitude toward school is developed pretty early on. When students fall behind by a grade level or more there is a profound effect on their later success. Many children have problems as early as the first grade and in the next year we will be looking at some new ways to encourage struggling students in kindergarten through third grade with early aggresive interventions to help them catch up."
Saavedra says the district has recovered 1,300 high school dropouts with 270 graduating last year.
"One of the ironies of public education is that the established minimum standards for high school graduation don't meet the minimum standards for college readiness. So starting next year, we will be working with the Houston Community College system to offer college readiness courses for high school seniors before they graduate, while they are still in high school. So when they enter college, they're academically ready to make that transition."
The district is promoting the concept of a college-bound culture through a new radio/TV ad campaign, college literature in schools and advice and planning for parents of elementary students. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.